2010: A joy story

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Gerald Wages of North Mississippi Health Services is this year’s recipient of the United Way’s most prestigious award.
The United Way of Northeast Mississippi on Tuesday gave the J.G. Berry Award to Wages, an executive vice president at NMHS. The award is given each year to an outstanding volunteer who has gone above and beyond to help the organization.
“The United Way is such a great part of our community,” said Wages, who serves on a multitude of boards. “If you look at the agencies supported by United Way, most of us wouldn’t have the opportunity to contribute to them without the United Way.
“It’s just been a privilege to be associated with the United Way and a privilege to be a part of the Tupelo community because of the great leadership and outreach.”
The United Way supports 64 nonprofit agencies in Lee, Chickasaw, Itawamba, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Tishomingo and Union counties.
The group had raised $2,242,144.28 as of Tuesday, according to Cathy Robertson, this year’s campaign chair.
The total surpassed the goal of $2.15 million and last year’s total of $2.2 million.
Tuesday, the United Way celebrated the successful campaign with an Oscars theme. Community leaders helped bring the Academy Awards to life by portraying a variety of celebrities, including the “Wizard of Oz” characters, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, Vivica A. Fox, Halle Berry, Kathy Bates and Brad Pitt.
“We left bobsleds this year and moved into some other things,” joked Shane Hooper, the 2010 United Way board president, who ditched his fake dreads and Jamaican accent from last year for a black-tie tuxedo.
Hooper also presented this year’s Jimmy Williams memorial grant of $1,000 to Tupelo’s special education and handicap bowling league. League President Shelli Wood said the league offers sporting events monthly for about 250 to 300 kids.
This year’s campaign volunteer of the year was the team at North Mississippi Health Services and the North Mississippi Medical Center.
“They went above and beyond,” said Melinda Tidwell, the executive director of United Way. “They made an effort to reach every employee at every facility. Most people don’t give because they aren’t asked. Asking is key.”
Tidwell referred to the hospital’s other award as evidence that the effort was worth it. NMHS and NMMC won the achievement award for the largest dollar increase with an organization giving more than $10,000.
Both organizations gave a total of $506,775, which was the United Way’s largest total gift during the campaign.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@journalinc.com.